McKenzie Interchange Project update: August 2018
by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice NewsFriday, August 10 ~ WEST SHORE / SAANICH. Things are rolling right along with the McKenzie Interchange Project along Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway / TCH), with construction work now past the 20-month mark.
Motorists have adapted well to the lane changes during construction. The current traffic pattern will remain in place for the summer and into the September back-to-school season (there are three schools in the area).
Those temporary detour lanes will become the future off-ramps from Highway 1 at McKenzie Avenue and Admirals Road. See some current drone footage (courtesy of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure): https://youtu.be/ef8e3w2qmRs
The next major change in traffic flow will be in the southbound lanes (heading into Victoria) with detour ramps off Highway 1 onto some new detours. That will happen in November, according to the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure today. That still sees the overall project construction being on track for completion by the end of 2019.
Once those detours are in place, there will be significant changes on Highway 1, including lowering the highway level by seven meters, to allow for construction of the Interchange. McKenzie and Admirals remain at the same grade.
During the 2018-2019 winter construction phase, people may wish to adjust their commutes accordingly, says Janelle (Erwin) Staite, Regional Deputy Director, South Coastal Region, Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI).
The intersection is the number one bottleneck in the province outside of the Lower Mainland. About 85,000 vehicles per day use the Trans Canada Highway in that section between Victoria and the west shore, and beyond.
It is anticipated that the project will result in overall travel time savings significantly reducing the commuting time between the Western communities, downtown Victoria and the University of Victoria, for passenger vehicles and transit. Possibly by as much as 20-minutes, especially in the afternoon commute, Straite said today.
Based on technical analysis and feedback from the public and stakeholders, the new McKenzie Interchange will be built as a partial cloverleaf. It’s considered the safest, most efficient option and best meets the long-term needs of this region. It was also the preferred option of 75% of those who participated in the public consultation.
The project will improve traffic flow of passenger, transit and goods movement vehicles and reduce collisions and congestion-related impacts to the economy, environment and public health. Safety of pedestrians and cyclists will also be enhanced as part of the project.
A bit more blasting can be expected come November. Some sound walls will be installed for noise consideration of residential areas that are nearby to the highway. “We’ve identified areas where we need to put sound walls,” says Staite. Blasting is done between 8am and 10 pm as required. Residents will be notified. Blasting will be done in the evenings as much as possible, and there will be ongoing dialogue with residents, said Staite while on the Galloping Goose trail along the Highway 1 roadside today.The present pedestrian/cyclist bridge that crosses over Highway 1 will eventually be replaced by a permanent pedestrian/cyclist crossover. It will be positioned further south, making it more convenient for dropping off children to schools in the area.
Crews have started the abutment pile foundation work for the bridge that will carry traffic over the TCH along McKenzie Avenue and Admirals Road. After the highway traffic is shifted to the detour in November, the pile foundation for the bridge pier will be installed.
The overall McKenzie Interchange project is about relieving pressure on Highway 1, says Straite. The highway is being widened with bus shoulders, so that buses can get past any lineups of other vehicles. During winter 2018 into 2019, McKenzie Avenue will also be widened, creating two lanes for exiting northbound onto Hwy 1 (toward the west shore and beyond) and some pedestrian/cyclist pathway improvements.
After the McKenzie Interchange project is complete, MOTI may look at congestion challenges at the Tillicum Road/Hwy 1 intersection where they are lengthy commuter waits and long backups especially during commuter hours. Earlier this week, ICBC announced that 24/7 red light cameras are now operating at Tillicum and Highway 1, as it is a high-crash intersection. (Red light cameras are also now operating 24/7 at Shelbourne and Hillside in Victoria, which is another high-crash intersection.)
There is of course a continued policy push for people to use public transit buses instead of cars. Staite says that buses are three percent of Hwy 1 traffic but carry 40% of that corridor’s users. That of course focuses on single-occupant commuters. The volume of vehicles used for business and business services is not likely to decline.